Disc Reviews

Paul Simon doesn't have to ever write another song and his reputation as one of the top handful of contemporary singer/songwriters is secure.

By
September 20, 2007 08:43
2 minute read.
paul simon disk 88 224

paul simon disk 88 224. (photo credit: )

PAUL SIMON The Essential Paul Simon (Hatav Hashmini) Paul Simon doesn't have to ever write another song and his reputation as one of the top handful of contemporary singer/songwriters is secure. The Essential Paul Simon makes that abundantly clear with 36 songs on two CDs spanning his post Simon & Garfunkel career, and makes an equally convincing case that Simon is one of those rare artists whose post-famous solo work surpasses his band work. It's a musical education to trace the winding route from his S&G-like self-titled debut album in 1972 which featured songs steeped in the folk-rock tradition like "Duncan" and "Mother and Child Reunion." Only a year later There Goes Rhymin' Simon (with one of his simplest yet most monumental works "American Tune") and a couple years after that Still Crazy After All These Years saw the master craftsman branching out and testing a dazzling array of styles with equally sparkling results. The compilers wisely stick to only a couple tracks each from the mid-career lull in the early Eighties which produced the sub-par One Trick Pony and Hearts and Bones, but picks up big time again with a plethora of selections from the awesome one-two punch of Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints. The remaining third of more recent songs presents a mixed bag, exposing a noticeable lag in quality - particularly the forced material from the ill-conceived Broadway show Songs From the Capeman. However, both "Outrageous" and the sublime "Wartime Prayers" from his 2006 comeback Surprise indicate that Simon may still have more ammunition to bolster his status as the second-best Jewish songwriter (after Dylan, of course) of the rock and roll era. THE DOORS Live in Boston 1970 (Hatav Hashmini) As befits almost any band that existed for a relatively short time and boasted such an enigmatic, charismatic frontman who died young like Jim Morrison, The Doors' stature in rock folklore has increased as the years go by. But were they really that good? Ostensibly, a blues-based proto-punk group of bohemians fueled in equal measures by the Nuggets-era organ mania of Ray Manzarek and the shaman poetry of Morrison, the band certainly forged an identifiable dark, dense style that was part beatnik, part pop - a synthesis that was later embraced by everyone from Patti Smith to Henry Rollins. The Doors were able to fire off Top 40 commercial hits, snake through elongated improvisatory passages, and rock out like a power trio - usually all on the same album. Live, however, they threw the three-minute hits out the door, preferring to stretch out and explore - they sank or swam on based on the band's incredible telepathy and upon Morrison's whim. When he was on, they really did break on through to the other side. But when he had over-indulged in one of his vices, they were the definition of the term train wreck. The three-CD Live in Boston album finds the band reaching both extremes in one night, in a performance that Manzarek accurately calls "over the edge." Live In Boston is like an uppercut to the expensively groomed chins of contemporary mainstream rock performers, whose every move, every between song patter, and every note is choreographed and planned as precisely as a Broadway show. In 1970, even in arenas, bands often played two shows a night turning the house over and doing a late show. Live in Boston captures both the raucous early show and the even more chaotic late show in all its shambolic, glorified mess.


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